The Penna Perspective – We've changed how we recruit


22 Dec 2020

The Penna Perspective – We've changed how we recruit

This December, I’ve been lucky enough to join a C.Co webinar with the fabulous Donna Hall, a C.Co NED, Chair of NLGN and previous Chief Executive of Wigan Council; and Paul Satoor, Chief Executive of Wirral Council. Not only was it a fantastic learning session around the impact of Covid on leadership but also a timely reminder of just what 2020 has done for the recruitment market.

I talked about Penna and how Covid has impacted us. Our turnover is down by 11% and revenue down by 22% - we know it could be far worse! We’re protecting jobs, using Furlough, redeploying our team across the business to deliver solutions and service our clients’ needs. And their needs are all different. Interim, search and direct sourcing are busy. Our clients want to move fast to target diverse candidates and use high quality engagement methods, all to attract and retain a diverse candidate pool. Virtual assessment, which we’ve moved online, has been completely redesigned. Now it’s faster, lower cost and offers higher access with inclusion assessments that focus on values, behaviours and strengths, as well as competencies. Diversity and inclusion consultancy, branding and auditing are rightly in demand in response to Black Lives Matter and the ongoing demand to remove inequality in the workforce. So that’s what clients wanted in 2020 but which markets are recruiting?

2020 market insights

Our retail clients have been understandably quiet, unless of course they are a supermarket or logistics business. Whilst there have been a number of high street store closures, we have only had one client call it a day. The high street is however, at an all-time low but consultancy, research, bio-tech, science and higher education are in growth mode. All things green, housing, regeneration, or planning in local and central government, are in high demand ready for the economic recovery focus. It’s not surprising that clients are thinking ahead about the need for digital, communications, legal, HR/OD and finance professionals as their organisations need to think and act differently to mobilise people and resources virtually.

Private sector candidates have seen the public sector in a whole new light. From key workers and NHS heroes to Councils delivering food parcels; Covid has shone a light on the purposeful and powerful work done by the public sector. For some, the public sector may just be a safe bet short-term choice but for many this will be the chance to make a move to more meaningful work. The public sector and local government have a huge opportunity now to harness this new-found interest to create bespoke employer brand positioning with current and potential employees. The power of purposeful work must be harnessed to attract a new generation of local government talent.

12 months of evolution in recruitment

2020 has been a welcomed revolution in part for recruitment. The jolt for change that lockdown created needs to be harnessed. We’ve completely redesigned the recruitment process - it’s faster and more focused. We’re honing in on quality communications, authentic employer branding and embedding diversity and inclusion. Recruitment processes are online, offline, video, 1D and 3D. We’re taking less time on process and more time with the candidate. That’s more time on what matters.

The focus on the candidate in the video meeting is positive, both for them and the client. Nobody is worrying about the sandwiches or the car park for assessment centres, we’re now focusing on the right things at the right time. 2020 will have many negative memories but I want to ensure that the change to recruitment is one of its positive legacies.

I spoke at the Chief Executives London Councils (CELC) only one week before lockdown and outlined a future where we might do all this. It seemed far away then but a pandemic later and we’re there. The question we are all rightly asking ourselves is, why did it take a pandemic? We had the tools and the technology but we were still awaiting cultural and behavioural change. Covid forced that change. Whilst no-one would ask for a pandemic to see this, we must remember the powerful influence on making change happen, at pace, and embrace its revolutionary affect.

What will leadership look like in 2021?

When it comes to the impact on leadership, it’s clear that Covid has been a learning curve and a test for all leaders. Through my chief executive networks, I have been privileged to hear the extremes. They range from being amazed by their workforce, to the devastating lows of losing employees to Covid. The emergency response, unrelenting workload, long hours and the emotional pressure, all whilst reshaping entire business models and responding to Government changes in real time, has tested the very best of leaders. I salute them all.

When interviewing I often ask, “why do you want to be a leader in the public sector?” It’s usually, why you do what you do, and who you do it for that are important. They are our drivers, they get us out of bed in a morning. If any public sector leader needed a reminder of why they do what they do and who they do it for – 2020 just delivered it – Big Time!

Julie Towers, Managing Director at Penna